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There are several ways that you can raise your chances of finding what you want at thrift stores:
Shop frequently, daily, if possible. You'll become familiar with what is old stock and what is fresh, and your shopping will go more quickly when you recognize what has come in most recently.
Many people take their garage sale leftovers to thrift stores, either Saturday or Sunday evening or on Monday, so shopping early in the week is a definite advantage. Also, going earlier in the morning will ensure that you get "first shot" at new stock.
Above all, make friends with the clerks in the thrift shop stores. Give them your name and telephone number or business card and tell them what specific item you're looking for. Write it down. Assure them that you want them to call you when they spot something they think you'd be interested in. As compensation for their consideration and effort, take them some homemade cookies or snacks.
Ask for discounts. Some stores offer different discounts each day of the week; i.e., senior citizens on Monday, students on Tuesday, veterans on Wednesday, etc. Learn which day is most beneficial to you to shop.
Volunteer to help organize the shop when you see a need. My husband and I frequently straighten the bookshelve at one local store, and often are allowed special discounts on books, such as 15 for $1, for example.
And one little secret: If you spot an item you'd like to have but want to wait until a sale day, "stash" the item somewhere in the store. You should see all the people scurrying to find their treasures every half price day at a local resale store!
Have fun!! Good luck!!